Friday, November 4, 2011

1 John 3:11-24 - Sermon Snippets

Taken from sermons by MacArthur (123), Roy, Spurgeon (12), and Steller

A Fitting Sacrifice
The story of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4) centers around a sacrifice. In the Old Testament God instituted blood sacrifices as the highest form of worship – necessary for forgiveness of sins and the ability to approach God. Abel obeyed, but Cain brought what he himself had planted and harvested. Although there were times that the harvest was prescribed as a sacrifice, context tells us that Cain offered what he wanted to offer, not what God wanted him to offer. “He invented his own religion, and the Lord would have none of it… Cain ‘was of the evil one’ (v. 12). The Greek word translated "wicked one" is poneros. It is stronger than kakos, the usual Greek word for evil. Poneros speaks of evil in active opposition to good - organized evil. A man who is kakos is willing to be evil and perish in his own corruption, but the person who is poneros seeks to drag everyone else down with him. Cain was a child of Satan. That is made evident because he was a murderer… Outward ritual, outward religiosity is no proof that a person is born of God. Cain was a very religious man. He didn't bring the right sacrifice because he had a self-styled religion… he brought the fruit of the land which he himself had toiled to produce and so for him he was going to make his relationship with God based upon what he accomplished, and that never gets you to God (MacArthur).

“The Greek word translated ‘killed’ in v. 12 is sphazo, which means, ‘to butcher by cutting the throat.’ It is used in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) to refer to the slaying of animals for Levitical sacrifices… When Cain and Abel were born, the seeds of death were already implanted in the sins of Adam and Eve. But as far as we know, no one had yet died. That Cain knew how to kill implies he knew God required an animal sacrifice. God instituted a pattern of sacrifice to bring men to himself [when he killed the animal to make a covering for Adam and Eve], but Cain became the first to pervert it and turn it into murder. The human race learned to murder when it was taught to worship” (MacArthur). Cain killed his brother out of jealousy that his brother was accepted by God but he wasn't. There are few people who murder as a way of life, but there are many who harbor jealousy and hatred.

The Test of Love and Sacrifice
The first test of true Christianity John gave us was righteousness; the second is love. The fact that we have heard the command to love one another from the beginning can work against us. “The danger that can rise for all of us is the temptation to stop thinking about love. After all, we've heard that before, we say to ourselves. Let's not spend our time thinking about such basic things. Let's get on to more advanced, more important things… John allows for no middle ground: you either love someone or you hate them. As much as you or I might like to try, we cannot sit on the fence and say, ‘I don't love that person, but I don't hate him either.’ John won't let us say that. Not loving is hating. And hate is tantamount to murder. ‘Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.’ Hatred is the wish that another person was not there; it is the refusal to recognize his rights as a person; it is the longing to hurt or ultimately even to kill him. If I hate somebody, I am no different from a murderer in my attitude toward him. And with God it makes very little difference whether I actually have a chance to carry out the desires of my heart or not” (Roy).

Love is not defined as an attitude or an emotion, but as an act of self-sacrifice. We know God loves us because He laid down His life for us. “Chances are you won't have the opportunity to die for someone, and that's why John added verse 17: ‘Whosoever hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his compassions from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?’ True love isn't confined to dying for someone. A Christian is willing to surrender possessions, comfort, and anything of value if a fellow brother has need. John is not teaching us to give out money and resources to all people indiscriminately… [But] you should be meeting needs within the community of believers. Certainly you can meet needs outside that community as God brings people across your path” (MacArthur).

Sacrifice means risk. In Philippians 2:30 Paul praises Epaphroditus who became sick because "For the work of Christ, he was near unto death, not regarding his life." Do you risk anything in your Christian life, or do you measure it out too carefully? "Do good and to share forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Heb. 13:16). "Let us not love in word," being all talk and no action. "Let us not love ... in tongue," being hypocritical. Love in deed and in truth – in action and in honesty. “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Pet 1:22). “The command is based upon the capacity. [Earnestly] is the Greek word ektenes. It is used of a muscle that is taut, that is literally stretched to its capacity. And he is saying, love as far as you can love, stretch yourself as far as you can go in love. Reach out as far as you have capacity to reach” (MacArthur). “How can we say that we are willing to lay down our lives for our brothers if we are unwilling to part with our money [and time] for their sake? It takes time to be a friend; it takes time to talk, to listen, to relieve loneliness. And for many of us it is harder to part with our time than with our money... But if you or I close our hearts with respect to time towards a brother or sister in need, how can God's love be in us?" (Roy)

“Brothers and Sisters, if we can say that we love God’s people, as God’s people, because they are God’s people, that is a mark that we have passed from death unto life! Do you love them for Christ’s sake? Do you say to yourself, ‘That is one of Christ’s people. That is one who bears Christ’s Cross. That is one of the children of God and, therefore, I love him and take delight in his company?’ Then that is an evidence that you are not of the world” (Spurgeon).

“In the old days of persecution, there were always some noble souls who tried to hide away the Christians from those who sought their lives, although they did so at the risk of their own lives; and many a Christian has given himself up to die in order to save the lives of his fellow-Christians. Some of the old people came tottering before the judge, because they thought that they would not be so much missed from the church as the younger ones would be; and, possibly, some of them also thought that they had more faith than the younger ones had; and if they had more faith, they were more ready to die, and so to let the younger ones live on until they grew stronger in faith, and hope, and love. But, on the other hand, sometimes the young men would gently push back the fathers, and say to them, ‘No; you are old: you had better linger here awhile, and teach the young; but we young people are strong, so we will go and die for Christ’” and there was many a contortion, in the Church of God, in persecuting times, as to who should first die for Christ. They were all willing to lay down their lives for their brethren. Where has this self-sacrificing love gone to now! I would like to see some of it; I would even wear microscopes over my eyes if I thought that I could so discover it; but I am afraid I cannot. Why, if we loved each other now as Christians loved each other then, we should be the theme of the talk of the town, and even worldings would say, ‘See how these Christians love one another’” (Spurgeon).

Our consciences and the assurance of Salvation
“Satan loves to distort our conscience. He does it in two ways: first of all, he loves to silence it, to sear it so that it can lie quiet no matter what you're doing (1 Tim 4:2)… If he can't sear our conscience, he will seek to fine tune our conscience to a perverted view of God. [Some people’s] conscience[s] have long since been seared or are in the process of being repressed into silence. Then there are some whose consciences are very lively but are attuned to a taskmaster God who is impatient... labor[ing] under a blanket of guilt that never goes away [and feeling] depressed and broken and defeated. You confess your sins, but never feel like you did it well enough to actually be forgiven; you look at how you love your brothers and sisters and you feel that it’s never perfect enough to please God. And the third type of people are some of you whose conscience is lively, but attuned to a God who is holy and also compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. When you fail to love as you should, your conscience condemns you, informing you that God is against your sin. But you thank God for your conscience. It is like those nerve endings that mercifully scream out in pain when something is wrong in your body and needs attention. When your conscience condemns you, you turn to God in confession and you trust the promise that God will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. If the harm you did is something that can be restored through a word or a deed, you will rely on God's help to be reconciled to the person you hurt. And then your conscience will be quieted, and you will be free to love and to pray once again” (Steller).

“Jonathan Edwards said… ‘When persons are possessed of false affections and think themselves out of danger of hell, they very much put off the burden of the cross, save themselves the trouble of difficult duties and allow themselves more of the enjoyment of their ease and their lusts’. That's what we have in the church today. People are coming and affirming that they've been delivered from hell and since they're delivered from hell, that's all taken care of, they can basically go out and give little regard to the burden of the cross, little regard for the duties that should be theirs as the servants of the Lord and allow themselves the enjoyment of their ease and their lusts. Edwards says this is a dead giveaway of false conversion” (MacArthur).

“Our hearts will experience uncertainty, insecurity, and self-condemnation. But the remedy for that is loving in deed and in truth. And the fruit of love is assurance. The Greek word translated ‘assure’ is peitho, which means "to persuade" or "to tranquilize." If your heart is upset, tranquilize it by reminding it of your deeds of love. No unsaved sinner can have that kind of assurance… Sometimes your heart will condemn you… Sometimes it's right; sometimes it's wrong... I expect things out of myself that the Lord doesn't expect. I can have certain legalistic quirks. Sometimes I get lazy... When your conscience is wrong, reject it; when it's right, confess it. ‘There is ... no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1). When you concentrate on the failures of your life, your conscience will tear down your assurance” (MacArthur).

Confidence before God in Prayer
Do these verses teach us that we have to earn the mercy of answered prayer through obedience? Isn’t God’s mercy unconditional? “A crucial thing for us to learn is the difference between unconditional and unmerited. The mercy of answered prayer like every other mercy is totally unmerited—but according to this verse it is not unconditional. The condition for our receiving from God whatever we ask for in prayer is that we keep his commandments. Our obedience does not earn answers to prayer; it simply puts us in the position to receive his mercy through answered prayer” (Steller).

“[But] If our heart is no longer condemning us [and] we've confessed those sins… we find ourselves with a kind of confidence that causes us to rush into the presence of God and whatever we ask we receive from Him. This is amazing. This might be considered to be presumption. The word here, parrhesia, the word confidence, means boldness, it means freedom of speech. The idea would be to go into the presence of God and say exactly what's on your mind… whenever you tell your children you're going to have somebody special at the house, the first thing you say to your kids is, ‘Watch what you say…’.

“But not with God… if your conscience is clear, there's something in you… that causes you to run into the presence of God and spill whatever is on your heart, right? This is boldness. You don't hold anything back. We have an open relationship, a face-to-face relationship like a loving son to a loving father. We can look into the face of God with freedom from fear, freedom to ask, freedom to give Him anything that's on our heart, absolutely anything and know that whatever we ask we receive from Him, obviously if it's in accord with His perfect will and pleasure.

“This is an evidence of a changed heart. The sinner has no passion to run into the presence of God and unload all the passions of his heart, to speak freely to God. The sinner has no relationship like a loving child to a loving father. But the saint does, the one whom the Lord has regenerated and made His own loving child, knows God as Abba Father, papa, and he knows that anything he asks within the will of God he's going to receive because God has promised to meet all needs” (MacArthur).

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